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Faculty Artist Series: 'Musical Dramas in English'

Christopher Freeze and Steven Rickards performing Britten's Abraham and Isaac with Amy Eggleston.
Christopher Freeze and Steven Rickards performing Britten's Abraham and Isaac with Amy Eggleston.
Nayt Rundquist

Another Monday night means another installation of the Faculty Artist Series. This week’s edition was entitled Musical Dramas in English and presented several songs and cycles that relate dramatic tales, written by many well known composers throughout the ages. The sources of these songs range from biblical epics to Elizabethan theatre to modern novels. Performers took the stage solo, in pairs, quartets, and even a chorus to relate the dramas to their audiences.

One of the first numbers was a canticle written by Benjamin Britten entitled Abraham and Isaac. The duet between tenor Christopher Freeze and countertenor Steven Rickards depicted the Old Testament story of God’s testing Abraham and commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac. The two performers’ voices complimented each other as they adopted their characters and acted out the tale. The most interesting part of the piece, however, was the eerie manner in which the two voices combined dissonantly in their portrayal of God in conversations with Abraham.

Other numbers included Let me look at you, from Mark Adamo's operatic version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women; I know a bank, from Puck in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and Dominick Argento’s Tina’s Aria from The Aspen Papers. Each number told a story to the audience, whether it was a girl remembering her childhood with her sisters, a plot of one fairy against another, or a young lady’s recognition of the wonders society holds after years of seclusion.

The final song cycle of the night was performed by the University of Indianapolis Concert Choir and bass-baritone Roy Samuelsen as Elijah in the biblical tale of Elijah’s contest with the priests of the false god Baal. Samuelsen’s powerful rendition of Elijah was awe-inspiring as he lead the Concert Choir through the story.

The group will be reprising the performance on Thursday, March 4 at 7:30. Along with Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah, the choir will be singing a number of other choral works. Tickets for the show are free and doors will be opening at 7:15. Do not miss the chance to see this wonderful performance.